AutoFrame: Automatic Frame Inference for Object-Oriented Languages
Automatic program verification has made tremendous strides, but is not yet for the masses. How do we make it less painful? This article addresses one of the obstacles: the need to specify explicit "frame clauses", expressing what properties are left unchanged by an operation. It is fair enough to ask the would-be (human) prover to state what each operation changes, and how, but the (mechanical) prover also requires knowledge of what it does not change. The process of specifying and verifying
... se properties is tedious and error-prone, and must be repeated whenever the software evolves. it is also hard to justify, since all the information about what the code changes is in the code itself. The AutoFrame tool presented here performs this analysis entirely automatically. It applies to object-oriented programming, where the issue is compounded by aliasing: if x is aliased to y, any update to x.a also affects y.a, even though the updating instruction usually does not even mention y. This aspect turns out to be the most delicate, and is addressed in AutoFrame by taking advantage of a companion tool, AutoAlias, which performs sound and sufficiently precise alias analysis, also in an entirely automatic way. Some practical results of AutoFrame so far are: (1) the automatic reconstruction (in about 25 seconds on an ordinary laptop) of the exact frame clauses, a total of 169 clauses, for an 8,000-line data structures and algorithms library which was previously (with the manually written frame clauses) verified for functional correctness using a mechanical program prover; and (2) the automatic generation (in less than 4 minutes) of frame conditions for a 150,000-line graphical and GUI library. The source code of AutoFrame and these examples are available for download.